Personality – stable or fluid?

I had written about various personality theories on MyZenPath earlier, and this is an important question that deserves some discussion in the context of personality.

Is personality stable or fluid?

There are some interesting discussion around this. I had discussed The puzzle Of Personality by Dr. Brian Little here earlier. Adam Grant (1981) is a young and popular American psychologist specializing in organizational psychology. He is also an author and a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His book ‘Originals: How Non-Conformists Change the World‘ is a bestseller and highly recommended book.

Adam Grant published an interesting podcast ‘Is Your Personality More Flexible Than You Think?’ recently on 21st March 2018. In this podcast, he discusses with Susan Cain famous for her wonderful work on introverts and related book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  In her discussion with Mr. Grant, she mentions that given choice, she would prefer to sit in a cafe with her laptop thinking about ideas or listening to music, but she stretched out of her introversion, overcame her fear of public-speaking and gave lot of talks because she was passionate about the idea of making introverts understood. She also discusses her interaction with Dr. Brian Little and his theory about how we behave out of our character for things we are really passionate about.

Adam Grant himself discusses Dr. Little’s influence on him as a student and he has even appreciated his influence elsewhere.

In another interesting story, Adam Grant talks about the podcast sponsor Warby Parker that he has chosen himself. It is an eye-wear company that has become interest of many case-studies for nurturing learning culture in the organization and helping its employees to choose their projects themselves. At Warby Parker they believe everyone is capable of mastering more than one role and they encourage people to reinvent themselves with new skills. This is quite wonderfully exemplified by an interesting story of their employee Mary in this podcast.

In another wonderful article Debunking the Myth of Fixed Personality on Brain Pickings, Maria Popova cites several examples from philosophy to neuroscience to literature and shares a common feeling that character or personality is fluid and responsive to context, rather than a static and unflinching set of traits.

Quora has a detailed discussion on fluidity of personality with inputs from eminent psychologists and few individuals who had life-changing experiences. Here is small excerpt from one of those answers –

You said “personality.” Although that tends to get locked in place through our adapting we do as children, there will generally be some slight modifications and tweaking of it during our lifetime. The change doesn’t typically amount to anything great, but we do call it maturation.

So what does all this mean? Is personality completely fluid? What affects it? How does it change?
This is what Adam Grant says –

Neurons & narratives, the biological stuff and stories we tell ourselves, they both influence our personality but so does the situation we’re in.

If you’re not aware that your traits are flexible, they can become shackles. Personalities should be more of an anchor, it gives you freedom to pursue more possibilities without drifting too far away from your place.

I think this beautifully answers the question we started our article with. You can listen to Grant’s complete podcast below –

About the featured image:

The featured image used here is a no attribution required, free (CC0) image from Pixabay and I am using it here with gratitude.

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